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Social forestry in India

Social Forestry near Mothugudem of Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh, India

Social forestry is the management and protection of forest and afforestation of barren and deforested lands with the purpose of helping environmental, social and rural development.

The term social forestry was first used in 1976 by The National Commission on Agriculture, Government of India. It was then that India embarked upon the social forestry project with the aim of taking the pressure off currently existing forests by planting trees on all unused and fallow land.[citation needed] Social forestry is basically a "for the people, by the people and of the people" approach. It is therefore a democratic approach of forest conservation and usage.

Social forestry programme

The Indian government is trying to increase forest areas that are close to human settlement and have degraded over the years due to human activities. Trees were to be planted in and around agricultural fields. Planting of trees along railway lines, roadsides, rivers and canal banks were carried out. They were planted in village common land, government wasteland, and Panchayat land. The social forestry scheme was initiated in India to increase fuel availability in rural areas and to prevent soil erosion. This programme was a failure because it lacked governance[citation needed]. It is important to know that social forestry includes maximum utilization of land for several purposes.

Involvement of common people

Social forestry also aims at raising plantations by the common man so as to meet the growing demand for timber, fuel wood, fodder, etc., thereby reducing pressure on traditional forest areas. This concept of village forests to meet the needs of rural people is not new. It has existed through the centuries all over the country, but it is now being given a new character.[citation needed]

With the introduction of this scheme, the government formally recognized the local communities’ rights to forest resources and is now encouraging rural participation in the management of natural resources. Through the social forestry scheme, the government has involved community participation, as part of a drive towards afforestation, and rehabilitating the degraded forest and common lands.[citation needed]

Need of social forestry

People felt the need for a social forestry scheme because India has a dominant rural population that still depends largely on fuel, wood, and other biomass for their cooking and heating. This demand for fuel wood will not decrease, but the forested area will shrink further due to the growing population and increasing human activities. Yet, the government managed the projects for five years then gave them over to the village panchayats (village council) to manage for themselves and generate products or revenue as they saw fit.[citation needed]

The classic case of Bihar

Bihar is one of the poorest states of India and the work under MNREGA is not available during the flood times which covers a major portion of the year in many areas of Bihar. Apart from this, the physical work which is available under MNREGA is strenuous and is not fit for the differently-abled and the old. The forest area of Bihar was also dismally low at 7% in 2011. All these problems were innovatively taken up by the secretary of rural development of Bihar, SM Raju, who linked the social forestry scheme to MNREGA thus paving the way for poverty reduction and reducing climate change. Under the new scheme, the people taking care of plants were to get the ownership of them after 5 years. It was done to ensure complete care for plants. The project is a huge success; within 3 years the forest area went up to 12.86% and this in addition to providing employment to thousands of handicapped, women and old people like shubham.[citation needed]


Social forestry schemes can be categorized into groups: farm forestry, community forestry, extension forestry and agroforestry.

Farm forestry

It is a term applied to the process under which farmers grow trees for commercial and non-commercial purposes on their farm lands. At present, in almost all the countries where social forestry programmes have been taken up, both commercial and non-commercial farm forestry is being promoted in one form or the other. Individual farmers are being encouraged to plant trees on their own farmland to meet the domestic needs of the family. In many areas, this tradition of growing trees on the farmland already exists. Non-commercial farm forestry is the main thrust of most of the social forestry projects in the country today. It is not always necessary that the farmer grows trees for fuelwood, but very often they are interested in growing trees without any economic motive. They may want it to provide shade for the agricultural crops; as wind shelters; soil conservation or to use wasteland. Farm Forestry is another name for Agroforestry; a part of Social Forestry.

Due to huge requirement of pulpwood for production virgin cellulosic fibre based paper, the pulp and paper industry has become a major demand driver for certain species of tree such as Eucalyptus, Babul Acacia catechu, Subabul (Leucaena leucocephala) and was the connected Casuarina equisetifolia. As a rough estimate, the total demand for pulpwood is approximately 10 million ADMT (i.e. wood having 10% moisture). Indian Paper Manufacturer's Association [1] is an umbrella organisation of Indian Pulp and Paper Industry which coordinates and drives plantation efforts by member organisations in India. It is very important to us but on the evil side, it is causing damage to the forest. A fully grown pulp tree takes at least 40 years and gets cut down in 4 mins.[dubious ]

Community forestry

Another scheme taken up under the social forestry programme, is the raising of trees on community land and not on private land as in farm forestry. All these programmes aim to provide for the entire community and not for any individual. The government has the responsibility of providing seedlings, fertilizer but the community has to take responsibility for protecting the trees. Some communities manage the plantations sensibly and in a sustainable manner so that the village continues to benefit. Some others took advantage and sold the timber for a short-term individual profit. Common land being everyone's land is very easy to exploit. Over the last 19 years, large-scale planting of Eucalyptus, as a fast-growing exotic, has occurred in India, making it a part of the drive to reforest the subcontinent, and create an adequate supply of timber for rural communities upon the augur of ‘social forestry’.

Extension forestry

[Also called as Rural Forestry]

Planting of trees on the sides of roads, canals and railways, along with planting on wastelands is known as ‘extension’ forestry, increasing the boundaries of forests. This project has seen the creation of wood lots in the village common lands, government wastelands and Panchayat lands.

Schemes for afforesting the degraded government forests that are close to villages are being carried out all over the country.


[Comes under Rural Forestry] In agroforestry, silvicultural practices are combined with agricultural crops like leguminous crop, along with orchard farming and livestock ranching on the same piece of land. In layman's language, agroforestry could be understood as growing of forest tree along with agricultural crop on the same piece of land.

In a more scientific way agroforestry may be defined as a sustainable land use system that maintains or increases the total yield by combining food crop together with forest tree and livestock ranching on the same unit of land, using management practices that takes care of the social and culture characteristic of the local people and the economic and ecological condition of the local area.

Due to huge requirement of pulpwood for production virgin cellulosic fibre based paper, Pulp & Paper Industry have become a major demand driver for particular species of tree-like Eucalyptus, Acacia, Subabul Leucaena leucocephala and Casuarina. As a rough estimate, total demand for pulp wood is approximately 10 million ADMT (i.e. wood having 10% moisture). Indian Paper Manufacturer's Association [2] is an umbrella organisation of Indian Pulp and Paper Industry which co-ordinates and drives plantation efforts by member organisations in India.


Social forestry schemes have been started throughout India, making a difference in forest cover and benefiting rural and urban communities.[citation needed] The main objectives of such schemes include:

  1. Improve the environment for protecting agriculture from adverse climatic factors,
  2. Increase the supply of wood fuel for domestic use, small timber for rural housing, fodder for livestock, and minor forest produce for local industries,
  3. Increase the natural beauty of the landscape; create recreational forests for the benefit of rural and urban populations,
  4. Provide jobs for unskilled workers and
  5. Land rehabilitation
  6. Finally, its object is to raise the standard of living and quality of life of rural and urban people.[citation needed]


  • To carry out a need based and time bound programme of afforestation with special emphasis on fuel wood and fodder development on all degraded and denuded lands/forests.
  • Afforestation of abandoned jhum lands and mined areas.
  • Linear strip plantation of fast-growing species on sides of public roads, rivers, streams and irrigation canals.
  • Afforestation on under-utilized lands under state, institutional or private ownership.
  • Green belts in urban/industrial areas.
  • Shelter belt (generally more extensive than the wind breaks) for the purpose of shelter from wind and sun covering areas larger than a single farm on a planned pattern.
  • Farm forestry in the form of raising rows of trees on bund or boundaries of fields and individual trees in private agricultural land as well as creation of wind breaks round a farm or orchard by raising one or two lines of trees.
  • Raise flowering trees and shrubs mainly to serve as recreation forests for the urban and rural population.
  • Elicit people's participation involving women and young people in the conservation of forests, wildlife and environment.
  • Environmental awareness generation and celebration of vanamahotsava, environment day, wildlife week etc.[citation needed]

Lead NGO/Implementing Partners to Government of India & Bihar

See also


  • Sanmat, sustainable development Partner to UN. "planting".
  • highway mission, National green. "Plantation across highways". NGHM.
  • MNREGA, Social Forestry. "Social forestry". RDD,Govt of Bihar. IEC Govt of Bihar.
  • SDG, partnership for. "sustainable development goals". United Nations. UN.
  • Social Forestry in Bihar, MGNREGA. "Social Forestry" (PDF). Rural development department,Govt of Bihar. Govt of Bihar.
  • Social forestry, in Bihar. "MNREGA in Bihar" (PDF). []. Government of Bihar. Retrieved 13 November 2018. External link in |website= (help)